Industrial Explosives

A Video Clip from Explosives: The Power Tool illustrates some of the things in our daily lives made possible with explosives.

Few people today give much thought to the role that explosives play in their lives each day and how they are inextricably linked to our standard of living and our very way of life. Explosives provide the means to free up the vast resources of the earth for the advancement of civilization.

In order to maintain our standard of living in the United States, every day 187,000 tons of cement are mixed, 35 million paper clips are purchased, 21 million photographs are taken using millions of ounces of silver...80 pounds of gold are used to fill 500,000 cavities and 3.6 million light bulbs are purchased.

Few people know that 42 different minerals are used to make a telephone and 35 are used to make a color television. Everyday products such as talcum powder, toothpaste, cosmetics and medicines contain minerals, all of which must be mined using explosives.

The explosives industry was founded in this country during its very beginnings, when black powder was used to mine for minerals, break rock, clear fields and make roads. It is not an overstatement to say that this nation was built with the help of explosives. In the 1860s, Alfred Nobel, a Swede, invented dynamite and the blasting cap required to make it explode. He licensed it in the United States and the industrial revolution began.
With dynamite, mines could be dug deeper and more quickly, and uneconomical deposits thus became profitable. The extracted tonnage of copper, coal and iron ore increased a hundred fold. New industries began; some seem so basic today that is difficult to imagine that they were not always there.

Quarrying delivered materials such as limestone, cement and concrete which became common building products, replacing bricks and cobblestones. Harbors were deepened and widened, railways and roads pushed into the wilds and dams were built creating enough electricity to pave the way into the 20th Century. America found in dynamite, a new set of muscles to be applied to all forms of industry, including oil and gas exploration, power  production, mineral mining and pipeline, tunnel and highway construction.

In the age between the closing of the Civil War and the end of World War II, no single engineering tool surpassed the achievement of dynamite. Over the last 50 years, this workhorse of industrial progress has been joined by even more efficient and safer products known as water gels and emulsions and much more economical and less sensitive bulk delivery systems.

Today, we rely on explosives engineering more than ever in our quest for electrical energy, better roadways and mineral harvesting. 

There are a number of publications which detail the history of the development and use of commercial explosive products. The following books are provided as a basic reference for those interested in the history of the explosive industry in America.

     The History of the Explosives Industry in America,
     Arthur P. Van Gelder & Hugo Schlatter

     Lammot DuPont and the American Explosives Industry 1850-1884
     Norman Wilkinson

     Contemporary History of Industrial Explosives in America
     Joe Dannenberg

     The First One Hundred Years
     Robert Hopler

Links to additional locations with information relative to explosives :

International Society of Explosives Engineers

National Sand Stone and Gravel Association

National Mining Association

Industrial Minerals Association – North America